The first red-banded stinkbug I can remember seeing was in a field near Ft. Adams in Wilkerson County, Miss., five or six years ago while I was traveling with a group of workers searching for soybean rust.
I had heard stories coming out of Louisiana about them and about how destructive they are and how rapidly they could expand in numbers and in territory.
As so many of us are about problems we have not experienced first hand, I went along my merry way not thinking much about this “new” pest.
After that first encounter I would occasionally pick up one or maybe two in a 25-sweep net in fields generally south of I-20, but not until last year did I begin to find them all the way up into the central part of Mississippi.
Still, their numbers were generally low, and I only included them as part of the decision-making process for insecticide applications.
Not until this year have they been “primary” pests in the fields I have visited in the central part of the state.
In recent weeks numbers of “red-bandeds” have increased exponentially in areas where they were not to be found two years ago.
Today this insect is probably within the top five pests of soybeans in this area along with the looper group, armyworms, kudzu bugs, and the green stinkbugs that we have had all along.
The red-banded stinkbug is a very likely candidate for the number one slot for destructiveness in a soybean field that is in the maturity range of R5 to R6.5 or possibly as late as R6.8. If the bean pods are green, they can be damaged by this pest.
The red-banded stinkbug has increased from occasionally showing up in the net less than a month ago to numbers that approach one per sweep in a net, which in my opinion is still the best way to scout for them.
Numbers of 6 to 12 per 25 sweeps have become fairly common in the west-central part of Mississippi, at least in the Hills where I spend most of my time.
These numbers are far too high to ignore given the capabilities this pest has for causing damage to soybeans that will be discounted at the elevator and the direct seed weight losses that can be incurred.
This stinkbug reproduces faster, spreads faster, flies faster, and is capable of penetrating the podwall of soybeans more effectively than other stinkbugs I am aware of.
More difficult to control
It is more difficult to control, requiring combinations rather than single pyrethroid products with acephate still a preferred part of the program.
One article published in Delta Farm Press in 2009 stated that if a Louisiana farmer missed even one application needed to control this pest there might not be sufficient good beans to justify harvesting the crop.
I think we must face the fact that we are dealing with a pest that is equal in destructive power to others in history, including the boll weevil, the Heliothis complex, and the sugarcane weevil in milo.
From now on we probably need to face the reality that when we plant soybeans the decision is already made that the crop will be treated for this pest if it is identified through regular scouting by a qualified person. Otherwise there may be such damage to the crop that lost yields and discounts at the elevator may be too great for profitability.
The reality for many growers this time of year is that the cost of producing the crop has already exceeded budgets and there is a resistance to any more outlay on the crop. I totally understand, but this fact must be weighed against the possibility for excessive losses in crop value.
When we begin planning for another crop, this pest should be included in the plan because it may have already become the 500-pound gorilla in the room.
Ernie Flint is an Extension Regional Agronomist with Mississippi State University. Email him at [email protected].